Williamson Strong Trashes Our Community, but Why? We Think We Know the Answer

Posted by in Williamson Herald

Last December, representatives from SEIU-Williamson County (DBA Williamson Strong) participated in a hit piece on our community in The Atlantic.

The article, titled, “The Fear of Islam in Tennessee Public Schools,” opens with: “Williamson County, Tennessee, embodies demographic stereotypes about the South: The country just south of Nashville is overwhelmingly white, Christian, and Republican.”

White. Christian. Republican. Uh oh, we have an idea where this is going.

“But this fall, a curious controversy emerged there. Parents and school-board members have voiced worries about alleged Islamic indoctrination in the public schools.”

Okay, this is starting to make sense. The Atlantic is about to make the case that this “curious controversy” has nothing to do with the content of the curriculum. No, something far more sinister must be afoot.

Questions about “whether Islam is being taught accurately and in proportion to lessons about other religions…seem to hint at something deeper and darker: fear,” declares Emma Green, the writer.

What reasons other than fear, bigotry and ignorance could there possibly be for parents and school-board members to have concerns about how Islam is taught in a southern community that is predominately white, Christian and Republican?

But there’s more: “…those who fear Islamic indoctrination in the county are likely a minority; at the very least, they don’t represent the views of many who live there.” (How Ms. Green, whose office is in Washington, DC, knows about the views in Williamson County is not clear. We’re just supposed to take her word for it.)

We live in Williamson County, and we’ve found that most people here are polite, kind and accepting of other points of view. We don’t identify them as being white or any other skin color; we just see them as friends and neighbors.

We also believe it’s important that our children are taught respect for all religions and cultures.

And while there is a solid Christian influence here, we don’t see that as being negative or exclusive. Just the opposite, in fact. Jesus taught His followers to love everyone.

We think there are legitimate concerns that the public school curriculum portrays Islam in an inaccurate, favorable light, and we believe there would be a lot more concern expressed if more people knew what is really going on in that regard.

But we are not going to debate how Islam is being taught in this post. Kathy Hinners’ Daily Roll Call blog does an excellent job of presenting the facts about Islam in America—and Middle Tennessee in particular—for anyone who is willing to take an objective look at the facts.

What we’re interested in examining is why a national publication like The Atlantic decided to single out Williamson County and do a lengthy piece about our “fear” of Islam.

We’re especially intrigued by this part of the article:

“In 2014, a group of four moms started blogging on a website and Facebook page called Williamson Strong. Although they have pushed back on many of the initiatives proposed by the county’s relatively new school board, they have recently focused on challenging the anti-Islamic indoctrination campaign. Two of the founders, Jennifer Smith and Kim Henke, said they’ve been attacked for this and other issues.”

Things like this don’t just happen. We don’t for one minute believe that The Atlantic picked Williamson County out of the hat to do a story like this, and then just happened to find Ms. Smith and Ms. Henke—a couple of moms who are courageously trying to fight hate and ignorance in their overwhelmingly white, Christian, Republican county.

No, what we believe happened is that either SEIU executive and Williamson Strong co-founder Susan Drury or Jim “Prufrock” Cheney, another co-founder, contacted Ms. Green to present this as a story idea, using their SEIU connections to make it happen.

Then, when the story came out, they began circulating the article to the Williamson Chamber as proof positive that the new board members were promoting religious bigotry and hate, giving our community a bad name and driving away business prospects.

According to the article, Matt Largen, president and CEO of our chamber, is worried that companies will “come to town, see headlines about fear of Islam in schools, and get second thoughts.”

That’s right, Mr. Largen. No one should be allowed to ask questions or dare to criticize what’s being taught to our children about Islam because “workforces of people from all over the world” will believe we’re a bunch of tobacco-spitting, Bible thumping, hayseed hicks whose idea of fine dining is the road-kill platter at Billy Bob’s.

Mr. Largen continued: “Our strongest selling point is our public-school system. If what [company executives] read time and time again in the press is [about] a district struggling with these issues, it gives the impression that there is something fundamentally wrong with this district.”

Wow. We think Mr. Largen needs to take a closer look at who is trying to strike fear in his heart, and the hearts of other members of the chamber, through a carefully orchestrated propaganda campaign. It’s a sad day when people can’t raise questions about their kids’ education or have a discussion about an issue like how Islam is taught without facing accusations of being hateful and harming the image of our community.

But when Williamson Strong is involved, there’s always more than meets the eye. In this case we think The Atlantic hit piece was purposely done to encourage the chamber to create the Williamson Inc. PAC and ensure that Williamson Strong’s approved candidates get funding for their elections.

Lest we forget, all of the Williamson Strong candidates were defeated in the 2014 election. So far, they haven’t been able to prevail with their ideas and winsome personalities. If it takes the SEIU setting up a story in a national publication that disparages our community to improve the chances of their candidates getting elected, we believe Williamson Strong is more than happy to oblige.

What Mr. Largen and members of the business community ought to be very concerned about is the influence and objectives of union-front groups.

As we have previously noted, Williamson Strong’s “Strong Schools, Strong Communities” theme is used by used by union-backed groups across the nation.

Images of Strong Schools slogan

“Strong Schools, Strong Communities” is a national reform movement started by the American Federation of Teachers together with 123 organizations. These Strong-themed groups share more than the slogan used by Williamson Strong; they also have similar objectives and messaging.

Image of AFT Strong Schools

This initiative typically portrays itself locally as “grassroots,” (think moms with blogs), but according to MediaTrackers that is “an incredibly misleading descriptor” for a group that was created and backed by labor unions in Ohio under the “Strong Schools, Strong Communities” banner.

Stronger TodayWilliamson Strong’s leaders apparently thought we were all too busy—or too dumb—to notice what’s really behind their group and what they’re really up to. You know, as in dumb, ignorant, bigoted, fear-filled hicks from the south. Pass the possum pie, please.

But hey, we want to be fair and give Williamson Strong the benefit of the doubt. If they really are just a poor, misunderstood group of local parents who just happened to use the exact same theme, talking points and tactics as the union-backed “Strong Schools, Strong Communities” initiative, we suggest their leaders consider a re-branding campaign so that people aren’t confused by this amazing coincidence.

In fact, we think we have the perfect new tagline for Williamson Strong:

“The dumber you are, the better we look.”

photo credit: 2013 AFGE Leadership Conference via photopin (license)